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Plotter or Pantser?

February 1, 2018

The writing world is divided between people who meticulously plot their novels in advance and those who fly by the seat of their pants. JK Rowling recently tweeted:

I fall somewhere in between. In a class with YA writer, Robert Paul Weston, I developed a broad outline for a young adult novel as a class assignment. It seemed useful and KM Weiland’s book, Outlining Your Novel, inspired me to add more detail.  I wasn’t sure I’d actually stick to the outline, but over time, it proved to be an invaluable map that kept me from straying off-course to follow exciting but unproductive subplots.

And now that I’m finished draft one, (small cheer), I face the real work of refining the story. Following the sage advice of Anita Morris  I’m developing a reverse outline based on the Story Grid template developed by Editor, Shawn Coyne. This outline helps keep track of characters, motivations, conflicts, time, setting and more. Coyne actually recommends using this method to plan a novel in from the beginning, but, there is still a pantser in me! I even have trouble committing to the level of detail he recommends for a reverse outline. So, now I’m experimenting with my own outline categories. So far, it seems useful to keep track of:

  • Chapter, Scene, word count
  • Date, time, setting
  • Key events
  • Characters on and off stage with physical detail
  • Conflicts
  • Questions raised or answered

I guess I’m plotting my pantsing….if that makes any sense at all.


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